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Dan Murphy book review: An Elegant Defense

An Elegant Defense:
The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System:
A Tale in Four Lives

Author: Matt Richtel (2019)

Dan Murphy, DC

Dr. Dan Murphy

My entire career, I have had an interest in chiropractic and the immune system, sparked by seeing published anecdotes, journal studies and my own clinical experiences. When I saw this book profiled in The Wall Street Journal, Science News and Scientific American, I quickly picked it up. As always, I read this book with an eye toward chiropractic applications, and I found three that are noteworthy:

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It seems that everyone is obsessed with enhancing immunology. Yet, Richtel thoroughly explains that the most important immunology problem today is an immune system that is working too well, overworking, resulting in the escalation of autoimmune diseases. He attributes this to the “hygiene hypothesis,” noting that a lifelong adequate immune response requires that humans actually be infected early in life. Over-cleanliness and other infection suppression efforts damage the immune system. He notes:

“The hygiene hypothesis stated that our environment has become so clean that it has left our immune system insufficiently trained.”

“What does an immune system do when it’s not properly trained? It overreacts,” accounting for the rise in autoimmunity.

This is consistent with chiropractic concepts and teaching on innate intelligence.

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Unnecessary and overuse of antibiotics is not only bad for the person, but bad for all of humanity; it accelerates the evolution of pathogens by billions of years, putting all humans and all future generations at risk from bacterial diseases that are untreatable. Richtel notes:

“There is arguably no more powerful medicine on earth than antibiotics. They are vital for our survival. Full stop. But their widespread use also threatens now to cause the evolution of bugs that will make past plagues look like the common cold.”

“We are pulling back sharply on the use of antibiotics so that the element that saves us doesn’t lead to civilization-threatening pandemics.”

Once again, this is consistent with chiropractic concepts and teaching on innate intelligence.

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Why does the subluxation exist as a mechanical phenomenon? It exists because humans evolved to use inflammation to survive infections; and that the resolution of inflammation is fibrosis. Richtel notes:

Inflammation is defined as “a curative reaction of organisms.”

“Pathogens, unlike the healthy cells in our own bodies, don’t like to stay in a particular area. They are built to cross borders, push into virgin tissue, spread, eat, and replicate.”

Pathogens initiate inflammation and inflammation initiates fibrosis. Fibrosis is the border wall:

“As the fibroblast cells come together, they form connective tissue, a bridge between the new and old tissue. At the wound site, the new tissue takes on a granular quality, hence its name granulation tissue. A kind of a tenacious web forms, a fibrous matrix that protects against invading pathogens.”

This fibrous matrix occurs in both infection and non-infectious inflammation, such as in mechanical injury or stress. This fibrous matrix will “limit the mobility of joints,” [Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease], creating the need for chiropractic mechanical care.

For everyone interested in the newest information on the immune system with clear chiropractic applications, this is a great book.


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